Starbucks' Beer-Inspired Latte Was A Tragic Failure

For every flavored Starbucks latte seen on menu boards today, there's a secret history of tried and failed handcrafted beverages behind it. In 2014, for instance, Starbucks tested out a beer-inspired Dark Barrel Latte in Ohio and Florida, seemingly interested in experimenting with the alcohol-infused beverage arena.

Though they were intended to taste like beer, these drinks were actually alcohol-free. Starting with a milk and coffee base, the Dark Barrel Latte got its flavor from a malt syrup, and it was topped off with whipped cream and dark caramel drizzle.

To be fair, making a stout-esque espresso drink isn't too far of a stretch of the imagination, as stout usually carries flavor notes of coffee and chocolate, but as you may have noticed, this particular option isn't on current Starbucks menus. Understandably, customers weren't entirely on board with a coffee that tastes like alcohol, and the drink never made it past the trial stages to launch nationwide.

Starbucks customers had a lot of feelings about the stout latte

As is the case with many new Starbucks drinks that can stir up controversy, fans had mixed reactions when trying the stout-flavored Dark Barrel Latte. On the one hand, some people appreciated what the drink was trying to achieve, with one person comparing it to a breakfast stout. Another Instagram user described the Dark Barrel Latte as tasting like "heated Guinness with whipped cream," clarifying that it was a positive review.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, a number of Starbucks customers weren't overly impressed with the creative drink. For instance, one Facebook user said that they weren't interested in starting their day with "espresso and beer over ice." Others complained that stout already tastes like a cold coffee, pointing out that the similarities in taste weren't apparent. Still others were simply of the mindset that they would like to keep their coffee and alcohol separate, enjoying them at different times of day.

The Starbucks beer latte fared better in China

Although Starbucks' Dark Barrel Latte didn't quite land well with customers in the U.S., the drink seems to have been met with a more positive response in China where it was released in 2018. Perhaps prompted by Americans' complaints about warm beer, Starbucks China offered both a hot beer latte and an iced beer latte. After all, beer tasting notes mean very little if the temperature is throwing everything off.

Given the choice of hot or cold, customers in China seemed to better appreciate a coffee that tastes like beer without the consequences of drinking alcohol. Others even went so far as to rate the beer latte higher than the iconic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, which is saying a lot.

At the end of the day, it's hard to determine whether the variety in opinions comes from differences in culture or if Starbucks China simply improved upon the recipe that was originally tried in the U.S. We'll probably never know, as the beer latte no longer appears on the menu in either country.